High potential imaging technology for analysis of in situ patchiness
Modern ecological theory is largely based off mean field assumptions that can overlook the critically important “patchiness”, areas of high and low resource distributions, that define ecosystems. Also, studying the fine scale distributions of microorganisms in these patches has traditionally involved very expensive, resource intensive methods. This has greatly hindered the ability to conduct research in this area. This paper present an alternative, high tech, low cost method that can be used to study these patch dynamics across a range of scales, from that of 10’s of centimeters to that of kilometers. This method involves the use of a waterproof enclosure that houses a microcomputer and imaging capture device that, with accompanying software, can analyze large batches of video for the presence, or lack thereof, of organisms of a desired size class. This paper also suggests a method, namely fractal analysis, which can be used to compare the self‐similarity, or lack thereof, of various organism distributions over a range of scales. Preliminary results seem to indicate a rough correlation between organisms of a small size and those of a larger size, though further data and analysis is necessary for confirmation. Further fine-tuning and utilization of this imagine system promises a high potential yet low cost way in which researchers in both terrestrial and marine landscapes can simultaneously analyze a greater volume of data while reducing their workload in terms of manual analysis.